Yogita’s passion for yoga leaps off the page in this teacher profile. She is the only yoga teacher in the country teaching Vyayam Yoga, which is a moving style of yoga that formed the foundation for many martial arts.
Her yoga teacher training was thorough, as she spent five years of studying at the Traditional Vyayam School in the Moorish city of Granada, Spain with Shrî Swami Shankaratilakânanda. There she learned about all aspects of yoga, and was particularly impressed by the way in which yoga becomes the way on which we live our lives.
It’s something Yogita continues to emphasize with her students now, encouraging them to take the breath techniques off the mat and into their lives, using awareness of breath to break habitual reactive patterns.
1. What style of yoga do you practice and where do you teach?
I practice and teach Hatha Yoga and Vyayam Yoga. Hatha Yoga is the Classical style of Yoga that naturally helps us to gain physical and mental strength through the various static âsanas (postures) and is a practice that most yoga practitioners are familiar with.
However, Vyayam Yoga is a more dynamic style of Yoga and even though it still does come under the umbrella of Hatha Yoga, unfortunately it is not as well known in the West due to its historical circumstances. It’s a combination of Hindu dance, martial arts and classical Yoga with a heavy emphasis on breathing and is a lot like meditation in movement.
2. How did you come to yoga?
I came to Yoga quite by accident. I began studying Yoga in a serious and full time way when I was living in Madrid, Spain. I had always dabbled in Yoga previously but never seriously or assiduously and certainly not with an awareness of the whole spiritual and philosophical side of Yoga which even today is still often very separate from the physical practice prominently taught in the majority of classes.
I attended a workshop given by the venerable master Shrî Swami Shankaratilakânanda, after which I promptly left my job at the time and moved to the South of Spain to study at the Ashram on a full time basis.
3. When did the yoga bug really get you?
When I discovered there was so much more to Yoga than just the beauty and grace of the physical postures and their amazing benefits, when I heard Guruji speak about Yoga in Dharma, about having ideals and dignity, compassion, generosity and love, and when I heard him speak about Yoga as a way of life, a philosophy, and of incorporating that philosophy in your life at every given moment.
Yoga gives you the incredible opportunity to practice self control, emotional control, sensorial control and control of the mind as situations and conflicts natural to day-to-day living rise and fall. The mastery is in the skill we have to adjust, adapt and accommodate ourselves to each situation that life presents to us in a calm and equanimous manner. Knowing that life is transitory and that nothing ever remains the same helps us to understand this bigger picture.
Life is in constant change and transformation, and Yoga can help us to see and experiment the idea of accepting this change by not fearing it or trying to run from it, but embracing it whole heartedly.
4. How has yoga transformed your life?
I have learned that Knowledge is the key to liberation, and that without it we can live our lives covered by a veil of illusion, avidya (ignorance).
Thanks to the knowledge of Guruji, (Guru means he who removes the veil of ignorance from your eyes and takes you from the darkness to the light); I have had the possibility of becoming a more equanimous and conscious person, a more balanced person during the vicissitudes of life.
It has helped me to come out of my normal reactive patterns and learn how to react in a more serene way. Serenity is the key to any conflictive situation and the answer to difficult decisions and without it we can often get wrapped up in our own importance creating unnecessary tensions which usually inhibit us from being capable of seeing a situation for what it really is.
Studying Yoga will enlighten you on the importance of the breath, the importance of a correct and moderate diet and the incredible importance of having a positive mind. In order to be positive beings that attract positive experiences, we must generate purity of mind beginning by nourishing our bodies with pure foods and removing toxins, then our minds are capable of sowing seeds of goodness that are then transformed into pure thoughts, then pure words and then pure actions and deeds.
It is an incredible process to begin observing our minds, because if we do, then we will surely be surprised to discover how many of us have negative thinking patterns. In order to change these patterns we must begin with the simplest things, by firstly looking into our diet, after all our body is constructed the way it is because of the foods we currently eat and have eaten in the past. Making positive changes in our diet can lead to positive changes in our lives. As the saying goes:
We must be the change we want to see in the world.
5. What is your home practice like?
I prefer to practice early in the morning when the world is still silent. This way I can find the quiet moments and stillness to meditate and do my personal Sadhana.
6. When people ask you, “What is Yoga?” what do you say?
I say that Yoga is the Art of living. It is knowing how to live life with less focus on oneself and more focus on others and their need to come out of suffering.
As instructors, we have valuable knowledge and insight that must be shared to provide people with the necessary skills to use on a personal level to help encourage transformation.
Yoga is a path of Self-realization, not based on salvation or blind faith, so each person treads his own personal path to reach the final goal. Yoga is a beacon that shines light onto the darkness that life can sometimes bring us and it teaches us how to react or not react in every single moment of the day under any circumstances, positive or negative.
Yoga teaches us how to put what we have learned in the classroom into real life by having a balanced mind and control of the senses and emotions. Yoga is not about negative emotions like jealously, greed or resentment, and even though you may feel these emotions at times, you will have the skills, through regular practice, not to let them overwhelm you.
Yoga is having the knowledge that when you eat, you eat, that when you sleep, you sleep and when you work, you work. This means that in every moment of your day your mind is focused on what you are doing, focused in on the task at hand, without any outside distractions or mental dispersion. Yoga is living in the moment without fretting about what has already been (the past) or what will come in the future.
7. What can people expect from one of your classes?
People can expect to work hard, stretch deeply and learn to breath correctly, understanding just why the breath is so crucial in our lives.
They can expect to learn how to be still and as a consequence quieten the movement of their minds. They can expect to learn techniques to calm the mind and free it from stress and tension and they can expect to learn relaxation and meditation techniques.
8. What do you love most about teaching yoga?
Without a doubt helping people. Passing on this ancient art form through the knowledge that has been past down from Master to disciple throughout centuries and applying that knowledge to today’s society and seeing how it helps to improve and transform lives in the simplest of ways. For me, this is the most rewarding part about teaching.
9. What do you wish everybody knew about yoga?
I wish that people knew that there is so much more to Yoga than just physical fitness, that there is a beautiful deep world waiting to be discovered.
I wish people knew that Yoga is about working with the mind, discerning, thinking, acting and reacting all within the parameters of Dharma. Yoga is the Art of living, not reacting when you feel like over reacting, it’s about controlling the senses (not repressing them) when your mind feels as if it is controlling you.
It is knowing how to breathe your stress away, it is correct communication, it is knowing how to relate to others, it is calmness of heart and spirit, it is generosity and compassion, it is expanding awareness and love for all beings, it is non-violence, truthfulness, concentration and meditation and above all it is about showing humanity and treating others as you would also like to be treated.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says to Arjuna:
But more superior is one who with spiritual intelligence acts equally towards natural well-wishers, affectionate well-wishers, enemies, those indifferent to disputes, mediators of disputes, the envious, friends, saintly people as well as the sinful. (Chapter VI, Sutra 9).
This means a person in Yoga is a person with a balanced mind not only when things are going well, but even in situations of adversity and conflict.
10. What role do you see yoga playing in our world?
I see Yoga playing a role in the reality of many peoples lives more and more and this is so wonderful to see because at whatever level you decide to learn Yoga, whether it be just for the physical benefits, calming benefits or more spiritual benefits, Yoga has something for everyone to take away and apply to their lives.
I would love to see Yoga extend into more practical places like schools to start teaching our young children the art of concentration, relaxation, correct diet and exercise as simple ways to help maintain a healthy body and mind, and I would also like to see it used in a therapeutic role in Prisons and rehabilitation centres, old peoples homes and hospitals.
Wherever there is emotional or physical suffering, Yoga can help to heal and overcome feelings of insecurity and restlessness and given that you can be of any age, race, creed or religion to practice this ancient art form, it is perfectly suited to one and all alike.
11. Anything else you’d like to say?
I would like to encourage people to have more awareness and try to apply what they learn in class in their daily lives. The breath work we do in class is only useful if you put it into practice when you really need to.
When you feel like reacting in a situation, bring yourself to your breath and see if you can ride out that reaction and wait until you feel calmer to talk to the person in a less reactive way than just resorting to old reactive patterns, leading with the impulses which can often lead to exasperation or lashing out. You will see how controlling your emotions can lead to conserving energy.
Negative emotions suck away our prana (vital energy), which is valuable and necessary and something we cannot afford to waste. If we were aware of how much energy we waste on negative emotions, I am sure we would be a lot more careful with our reactions. If we can think before we react, be more moderate in our actions, then we would suffer less and life would be kinder to us. The key to a balanced life is moderation in all aspects, from food to emotions, to work and relationships.
12. And finally, how do people find you?
I am currently teaching freelance around Auckland at the following centres. If you would like to contact me personally for corporate or private classes, you may do so at the following email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
I would personally like to thank Kara-Leah for this interview opportunity and I hope to meet some of you soon! Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
HATHA YOGA CLASSES
- Sundays 4-5.30pm: @ Ashram Yoga, 24 Cheshire Street, Parnell, Auckland
- Mondays 9.30-10.30am & Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays 7.15-8.15pm @ Lifesport, Eastridge Shopping Complex, Kepa Road, Mission Bay, Auckland
VYAYAM YOGA CLASSES
- Wednesdays 7.15-8.15pm @ Ashram Yoga, 24 Cheshire Street, Parnell, Auckland
- Sundays 10.30-11.30am @ Lifesport, Eastridge Shopping Complex, Kepa Road, Mission Bay, Auckland